December 20, 2012 in Washington Voices

Spokane couple’s 1974 Christmas tree lives on

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tyler Tjomsland photoBuy this photo

Dan and Paula Campbell stand on their porch next to the giant tree they planted after it was their Christmas tree in 1974.
(Full-size photo)

Map of this story's location

The huge conifer on the front lawn of Paula and Dan Campbell’s house on West 33rd Avenue had a humble beginning: It arrived as a live Christmas tree in a pot in 1974.

It was the Campbells’ second Christmas at the house, and the tree was about 5 feet tall.

Now it’s 50 feet tall.

“It’s funny: I couldn’t grow a dandelion without help but somehow I have great luck with Christmas trees,” said Dan Campbell, looking up at the giant tree.

The couple has put lights on the tree every Christmas season since they planted it.

“That used to be a lot easier than it is today,” Paula Campbell said.

For years, ladders and chairs and stepstools were used to hang the lights. At one point, the couple’s son Daniel did part of the lights from the roof of the house, but everyone involved agreed that wasn’t the best or safest solution.

“So together with a friend he designed a pulley system for the lights,” Dan Campbell said.

This Christmas, 750 big lights adorn the tree, which can be seen from blocks away.

“There are 50 lights to the string and they go up just like a flag on a flagpole,” said Paula Campbell. The strings that hold the lights stay on the tree all year.

The Campbells are not dedicated live Christmas tree people, but they occasionally talk about getting a second one that could be planted on their property at Twin Lakes.

Dan Campbell said he’s planted trees at previous homes in Spokane and Seattle.

“It’s fun to see them when I drive by,” he said, “and it could be fun to plant another one here, I just don’t think we have room for it.”

The Campbells married in August 1973 and have spent their married life together in the house on 33rd Avenue.

The home wasn’t in the best shape when Dan Campbell found it, but he bought it on the spot. Then he called his bride in Wenatchee.

“I just called her up and told her we weren’t going to rent,” Dan Campbell said.

Paula Campbell rolls her eyes at the memory.

“The house was in poor shape,” she said. “We’ve put a lot into it over the years.”

They’ve never considered moving. Both said they live in a great neighborhood surrounded by good neighbors.

And their giant Christmas tree has just become a tradition.

“We couldn’t imagine not having it, or not putting lights on it,” Paula Campbell said.

More lights may be added down the road, and the couple’s young granddaughter had this observation:

“She looked at the tree and looked at me and said, ‘Grandma, where is the star?’ ” said Paula Campbell, laughing.


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